How I Saved $3,190 With a $50 HDTV Antenna

Three years ago, I realized it was ridiculous to pay $110 per month for satellite TV when I could get it for free. Sure, I liked the large selection of channels I was getting from satellite TV, but free is hard to beat. With a $50 purchase to get free channels, I have saved over $3,190 so far. Here's how I did it.

Is TV Ever Really Free?

Before the days of cable and satellite TV, all channels were free. Local TV stations would broadcast a signal over the air for anyone to pick up through the "rabbit ear" antennae on their TV set. Why would big stations broadcast their content for free? Advertising. TV stations sold commercials to generate the income they needed to pay for their programming, not to mention a bit of profit for the TV station.

You may not realize it, but all local TV stations are still broadcasting for free. In recent years, TV stations have been required to upgrade their transmitters to broadcast digital high definition channels. This means that in most areas, you can get high quality digital TV service for absolutely free! All you need is an HDTV antenna.

What Is an HDTV Antenna?

You may remember large rooftop TV antennae from years ago. The one at my house when I was growing up even had a rotor that turned the antenna to tune in different stations. Now you can get good reception using a small indoor HDTV antenna that is about the size and shape of an iPad.

Indoor HDTV antennas start at under $10. If you live in a metropolitan area with TV stations within about 25 miles, this may be all you need. I live a bit further away from town, so I went with an antenna that includes a powered amplifier to boost the signal and receive from about 50 miles away. You can still buy an outdoor TV antenna, but in most cases, an inexpensive indoor antenna works quite well to pick up local stations.

How to Get Free TV With Your HDTV Antenna

Of course, you'll need a high definition TV to receive HDTV with your antenna. Most high definition TV sets have an antenna input. Simply attach your HDTV antenna to the antenna input using the coaxial cable that comes with the antenna. If you have a powered amplifier, you will need to plug the amplifier into an outlet to make it work.

Most indoor HDTV antennas are designed to hang neatly on the wall like a picture. The problem with mounting an antenna this way is that you may need to reposition the antenna to get good reception of some stations. I use a bookshelf near my TV to place my HDTV antenna in different positions to get good reception. If you don't get a signal at first, try moving the antenna to different locations. Sometimes laying my antenna flat and upside down provides the best reception.

Here's How I Saved $3,190 With a $50 HDTV Antenna

Three years ago, I decided to "cut the cable" and get rid of my TV service, using my HDTV antenna to get free TV instead. Here's how I saved $3,190.

Satellite TV was costing me $110 per month, so over three years this adds up to $3,960. I spent $50 for an indoor HDTV antenna, and about $20 per month for Netflix and Hulu subscriptions, or $720 for three years.

My savings so far is: $3,960 — $50 — $720 = $3,190!

Even if you pay much less for your cable or satellite TV package than I was paying, you can still save a lot of money by using free HDTV instead. If your TV bill is only $60 per month, that still adds up to $2,160 over three years.

How to Save Money With Free HDTV

  • When you buy an HDTV antenna, keep the package and receipt. If you are not happy with the channels you get in your area, you can return it and get your money back.
  • All HDTV antenna models perform differently. I returned one antenna before finding another model that worked better.
  • Unless you live near a metro area, go with an amplified HDTV antenna to get more stations.
  • The sooner you cut your TV subscription channels, the more money you can save. Try an HDTV antenna to see if you can get some free stations in your location and start saving money on TV as soon as possible.
  • If the selection of free TV stations in your location isn't enough, use inexpensive streaming video services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime video to round out your TV viewing options. These services cost about $8–$10 per month.

You might think that using an HDTV antenna would be less convenient than subscribing to cable or satellite TV, and that you would get fewer channels. You would be right. But I would rather have 3,190 extra dollars than pay for a bunch of channels that I rarely or never watch.

Did you get a free HDTV with an antenna? How much did you save?

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